The Eagles have made it no secret that they wanted to add weapons for Carson Wentz this offseason, and they accomplished that.
After a rookie season plagued by poor receiver play, Wentz will enter the 2017 season with Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith as his top targets on the outside. The Eagles also drafted two receivers with big-play potential in Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson.
Wentz will also get help in the running game with the addition of bruising running back LeGarrette Blount recently signing a one-year deal with the Eagles to provide a much-needed change of pace from Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood. The team even added former first-round pick Chance Warmack to fortify the offensive line.
None of these acquisitions will be the biggest difference maker for Wentz, however. The biggest offseason acquisition was when the Eagles hired Mike Groh to coach their underachieving wide receivers.
Groh came to Philadelphia with much praise, after leading multiple receivers to career years. Last season, Groh coached Kenny Britt in a season where he caught 68 balls for 1,002 yards as a part of the very poor Los Angeles Rams offense. Britt became the first Rams receiver to gain 1,000 yards since Torry Holt in 2007, also under Groh.
Much of Groh's NFL success came with the Chicago Bears, where he coached two of the current era's best wide receivers. Brandon Marshall, now a member of the New York Giants, caught 100 passes in 2013 under Groh, accumulating 1,295 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns. That same season, Marshall's teammate and new Eagle Alshon Jeffery caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards, the second-most in Bears history, and seven touchdowns. Jeffery followed up that season with four less catches and almost 300 less yards, but increased his touchdown total to 10.
Even when Groh was not coaching in the NFL, his receivers produced at elite levels. Groh coached Oakland Raiders star Amari Cooper during his freshman season at the University of Alabama, when Cooper broke the freshman school record for receptions (59), receiving yards (1,000), and touchdowns (11).
On day one of OTA's, Groh's drills drew the attention of the media with Groh being noticeably vocal, but also because of the new focus on route running. Route running was a major issue for the Eagles last season, as their receivers could seemingly never get separation from coverage:
Dorial Green-Beckham is included as one of those receivers who could not get open last season despite Randy Moss-esque measureables and his deficiency as a route runner was pointed out by Groh multiple times during drills on Tuesday:
DGB just had a really bad run thru a drill. Dropped a pass and Groh yelled that DGB was "flopping all over" #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) May 23, 2017
Grenn-Beckham drew the ire of his coach again when he failed to run a drill properly. Green Beckham goes last in the video after Smith, Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins all complete the drill successfully before him:
Groh is building a foundation around fundamentals and accountability. On day one of OTA's, Groh's drills focused on crisp route running, securing the catch and footwork with a team that previously struggled with getting their receivers open and holding on to the football. He has a plan to correct the existing mistakes of the group, something that Greg Lewis never seemed to establish in his lone season as wide receiver coach.
Groh also showed that he will not hesitate to point out a mistake. Groh clearly wants his receivers to focus on the finer, technical points of the position. This approach is what has led to players like Britt and Jeffery achieving the stats that they did under Groh in the past.
The new personnel should improve the Eagles passing game on its own, but Groh's coaching promises to take it to the next level. Where Mike Groh has gone, success has followed, and Eagles' fans should expect that to remain true during Groh's tenure in Philadelphia.